Jim Zorn can’t win for trying.
Last week, Zorn was criticized for eschewing another shot at the end zone and attempting a field goal with 15 seconds remaining before halftime and his Washington Redskins leading the NFC East-leading Cowboys by three points in Dallas.
So on Sunday, Zorn dialed up three straight pass plays when the Redskins, clinging to a 14-13 lead over the heavily favored Philadelphia Eagles, got the ball back at their own 35-yard line with two timeouts and 42 seconds left in the half.
Jason Campbell’s first two throws gained 7 yards, but the third was picked off by Asante Samuel and returned 17 yards to the Washington 28. The Eagles kicked a field goal three plays later to take a 16-14 lead into the locker room.
Even though the Redskins scored the first 10 points of the second half, that field goal ultimately would prove key in Philadelphia’s 27-24 victory.
“We had a lot of time,” Zorn explained after his 14th loss in his last 19 games. “I thought we could use two or three plays and have an opportunity for a field goal. Jason made a good read. He was throwing to [receiver] Devin Thomas, but Asante Samuel completely left [receiver] Santana [Moss] and came inside to snag it. Jason didn’t see him. I have a hard time faulting Jason on that one.”
Samuel is a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, but what made the turnover worse was that he had intercepted Campbell’s third-and-2 pass for Moss less than three minutes earlier at the Washington 21, setting up another David Akers field goal.
The two picks turned a 14-10 lead for the injury-riddled visitors into a 16-14 deficit without the Eagles managing a first down after either one.
“Hindsight’s always 20-20,” Redskins center Casey Rabach said. “Coach wants to [have] an aggressive offense. We should’ve closed the half out without them having the ball, but we obviously didn’t.”
And they were on their way to falling to 3-8, ensuring the eighth nonwinning season of owner Dan Snyder’s 11-year reign and tying a franchise record with a ninth straight road defeat.
“Same song, same song,” linebacker Chris Wilson said. “If I had the rights to the song, I would change it.”
But Campbell, who came close to improving to 3-0 as a starter at Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles are 12-7 otherwise the last three years, didn’t really fault his coach for the call or himself for throwing the ball into tight coverage.
“We feel like there’s nothing to lose for us, so we’re trying to go all-out to win,” said Campbell, who finished 22-for-37 for 231 yards, two touchdowns and the two interceptions. “[On the first pick], I tried to make a play on third-and-short and [Samuel] ended up jumping the route. On the other one… [we got] exactly what we were looking for. … I don’t know how [Thomas] ended up being in that area, because he was supposed to be way outside. It was a great play on [Samuel’s] part.”
Questionable decision by the Redskins. Great play by Samuel. And ultimately another frustrating afternoon for the Redskins. It was somehow fitting that on Washington’s final play, Campbell was hit so hard, he “blacked out for a second, [had] the breath knocked out and my left arm was numb.”